Thursday, January 13, 2005


And the list grows. I can't quite remember now whether some ISPs had always blocked certain sites which I am only now noticing or whether we are having a genuinely expanded list of filtered "news and analysis" sites. You can now count among the blocked sites the War in Context, CommonDream, CounterPunch and to my utter chagrin even the National Review.

This is now way too personal. How would I keep track of what mischief Mr. Ledeen is up to if the authorities here insisted on filtering sites so comprehensively? Is it too late to ask Santa to deliver Ledeen's writings via email?

Such is life I suppose in an authoritarian state. You can never be certain about the goodies future has in store for you. But on the plus side, at least it focuses the mind. And here I was thinking only today while taking a walk which author I would go for if I had to choose only a single one amongst the NR pundits.

Not all that difficult really, I concluded. The only serious thinker in the lot consistently making me think is Mr. Hanson. And I know where to find his writings. Although I must admit, I was a bit concerned after reading his latest piece. Geopolitical wars come and go. But that other more important, perpetual war on imbecility might suffer if Mr. Hanson continues being a Disenchanted American.

Mr. Hanson might find his world reconstituted radically and his perceptions more to his liking if he were to reevaluate the centrality he allows the notions of envy and jealousy in his analyses. He is much too refined a thinker to react in a manner almost identical to any Jerry Springer guest. And I am not being facetious here.

I have been watching the show on Satellite for a few days with French subtitles (funny ha?) The joys of insomnia, I guess. I was struck though by the three most common retorts you'd hear from all the guests: "You don't know me!" "You all want some of this!" You are just jealous!"

But I digress. I am still puzzled by this round of filtering. What are they really after?

So I began to wonder if this unabashed extensive filtering might not be aimed at covering and distracting from the actual upgrades to a new smart filtering program set to dazzle us once it implements successfully. The present program supposedly called HADID is rumored to have been developed with the help of the Norwegians at the cost of tens of millions. Are they fine-tuning it?

I mean, certain ISPs are filtering almost real time. I am not literate about the finer points of filtering. But what strikes me as odd is that latest opinions and some particularly unflattering news items and even certain key word combination searches in the Google are being blocked. Dr. Najmabadi's latest piece in the was filtered almost as soon as it went up. So was an item about torture (Iran) on BBC and a certain Newsday item on torture (Abu Ghuraib) filtered in the morning was accessible in the evening, the same ISP.

This is the land of extreme and dazzling gestures after all. What other country would have helicopter gunships flying over the city only to shower people with flowers? A not too subtle reminder, of course, of all the bullets and missiles which could just as easily rain down on our heads instead!

Surreal, isn't it? Sort of like that ghastly debate on torture in the Anglo American Blogosphere. If our ruling classes were half as smart as they think they are, instead of attempting to filter so many sites, they would have translated some of the more macabre profundities and made them accessible to as many people as possible.

I mean, I am sure quite a few Iranian bloggers and journalists would definitely want to know about the boundaries of acceptable torture.

"Please Judge Mortazavi, let's set some boundaries here first. You can hit me with your shoe, just as long as I don't suffer catastrophic organ failure like that unfortunate Iranian-Canadian Journalist!" Or, "I have asthma and if you were to bring me some mold you might get to see me cough up blood shortly and I'd have hard time breathing. But that you can do and it won't actually be torture since millions of people live with mold all the time…no big deal, really."

Now seriously, societies are almost as fragile as human bodies. You can't start with the assumption of radical difference and just blithely arrive at conclusions to your liking. The unimaginative, omnipresent ticking bomb scenario misses the point that strictly speaking most social changes in authoritarian societies are in point of fact ticking bombs. What do you think would happen if there were a revolution in Iran? At the most optimistic level, I would suggest a short civil war with all the anxiety, fear, torment and the bloodshed which that would imply.

And so even starting with considerations of public safety can really lead us to the unpalatable consequence of justifying positions of not only a Mr. Gonzalez, but also a Judge Mortazavi.

I'll try to elaborate and throw in my two cents worth about the torture debates in the next post. But surrounded as we have been with all the reports of forced confessions, death and torment, I haven't been able to avoid thinking about pain.

So I was exploring with some of my smarter adult students recently some aspects of Latin and Greek influences in English as well as how peculiar certain English verbs can be. Think about the transitive verb pain (Elaine Scary) as well as various proposed etymologies for repentance while I put the rest of this together.

P.S. Sorry for the missing links. For the duration of this uncertain phase in and out of the Blogger, for me!

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